Substance abuse and addiction are rampant problems in modern society. They can have a devastating impact on an individual’s physical, emotional and social well-being. Substance abuse and addiction are often confused as the same terms, and while being closely linked, they are treated as distinct medical concerns by healthcare experts.
As the term suggests, substance abuse is the overuse of alcohol, prescribed medication, or narcotics. According to The Global Burden of Disease, substance abuse results in 11.8 million deaths globally. Addiction is viewed as a medical disease in which the abuse of drugs and alcohol leads to chemical alterations in the brain, leaving the patient physically, emotionally, and mentally dependent on it.
Medical treatment for and recovery from substance abuse is often a long and complex process, but the correct interventions at the right time can save your or a loved one’s life. While treatment requires a multi-faceted approach, it is important to get professional help to get rid of addiction once and for all. Doing so is vital to the recovery process. Though many people may find it difficult to get professional help and open up to someone else about the problem they are facing. However, rest assured that counseling for drug addiction is a safe and trusted process, and here’s why:
Individuals suffering from substance use disorders can often feel isolated and misunderstood, even by close family members and friends. The treatment can be overwhelming and often leaves them feeling exposed and ashamed.
These individuals need a person whom they can trust to help them overcome their substance dependence. Counselors strive to provide a safe and judgment-free space for them to express and deal with their emotions and to guide them toward the recovery process.
Counseling addresses the underlying emotional and psychological issues that drive substance abuse. Counselors help individuals to understand the root causes of their substance abuse and addiction and help develop coping strategies to deal with them. They also teach their patients how to live a fulfilling life without the use of drugs or alcohol.
Many people who struggle with substance abuse have experienced trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or loss. Those suffering from mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety are also susceptible to substance use disorders.
Counseling can help these individuals understand how these experiences have contributed to their addiction and deal with the emotional pain that may have led them to use drugs or alcohol.
Another important aspect of counseling is that it can help individuals develop mechanisms to manage their cravings and triggers. Experiencing cravings during withdrawal and after recovery is normal but is also the cause of relapse in 85% of substance use patients. Cravings are often intense, and for freshly recovered patients, they can be extremely difficult to resist. Triggers are external cues, such as people, places, or situations, that can cause an individual to experience a craving.
Counseling plays a major role in developing a relapse prevention plan for their patients. They help individuals identify their triggers and develop strategies to avoid or cope with them. However, it is important to note that relapses are a common part of the journey to recovery; and are by no means a sign of failure on the patient’s part.
Counselors encourage their patients to pursue healthier habits and activities to replace the pleasure that drugs or alcohol once induced, such as regular exercise, meditation, or journaling. Counselors also teach them ways to remain calm and stay in control if patients find themselves in situations that trigger cravings.
One of the most difficult phases of recovery is rebuilding relationships with family and friends. Other than the negative impact substance use disorders have on patients, they also destroy marriages, relations with parents, children, and close friends.
Counseling helps individuals and their family members cope with the dysfunction caused by substance abuse. Counselors also aid individuals as they deal with the more practical aspects of life post-recovery, such as finding employment opportunities, managing financial difficulties, and dealing with legal problems.
Substance abuse can leave individuals feeling worthless. They often question their self-worth and do not believe that they have anything of value to offer to those around them. Patients in recovery suffer from guilt and disappointment, which fuels their triggers and can cause relapse.
Counselors work with their patients to rebuild their self-esteem and self-worth. A counselor’s job is to reassure patients that their addiction does not define them. They help them regain their confidence and self-respect. Counselors equip individuals with the ability to overcome their substance abuse and help them feel in control of their lives.
Substance abuse can consume a person’s life, leaving little room for anything else. As the dust settles post-recovery, patients often lack motivation and purpose. This can result in a relapse, and counseling plays a crucial role in helping patients pick up the pieces.
Counselors provide direction and motivation to people in recovery. They help patients set new goals for themselves, such as returning to school, starting a new job, rebuilding relationships, and learning to live a happy, fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol. Once the goals are set, counselors then set out to devise action plans for their patients to achieve their targets and follow up with them to ensure that they remain focused.
Counselors also connect their patients to recovery support groups as part of their aftercare plan. Social support from peers in recovery plays an imperative role in promoting sobriety in the long run. Support groups encourage individuals to ask for help when they need it without downplaying the importance of self-reliance in quitting substance use.
Recovery from substance abuse and counseling go hand in hand. However, counseling is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different people respond to different types of counseling, and a counselor plays a critical role in a patient’s road to recovery. For those suffering from substance abuse disorders, it is also important to keep in mind that recovery is a difficult journey, and while relapses can happen, they are nothing to be ashamed of. Therefore, counseling should be seen as a long-term treatment plan and an ongoing process even if the patient has quit substance use.